Conflict Resolution

In any group of people, some conflict is expected. In addition, respectful disagreement is arguably necessary in a diverse community. The school community cares deeply about creating an atmosphere of freedom and respect and conflict resolution is an essential part of that. Our goal at the school is to help members negotiate conflict by using tools of open communication. While it may be understandable for someone to retaliate when their rights are infringed, such reaction tends to escalate the conflict.  Instead we encourage methods that diffuse conflict.

We do not punish participants. This includes the use of so-called consequences. The term consequence has been so widely abused that it deserves some explanation. Natural consequences are not imposed; they exist of their own free will. So if it is 30 degrees outside and you go out in a T shirt, you will probably be cold. It may be that allowing someone to do that will result in that person putting on a coat in the future. It may also result in them not going out at all if it is cold. Being cold is a natural consequence of exposure to cold temperatures. But telling a child that because they refuse to put on a coat they cannot go outside is not a natural consequence; it is a punishment.

It is important to note that it is certainly not the school’s policy to allow children to engage in dangerous activities for the purpose of learning. While a truly natural consequence can be an important learning experience, it is our view that punishment never is.  We feel that punishment breeds fear, anger and confusion and complicates the already challenging path to self regulation. Punishment can produce compliance, but not good judgment. It perpetuates the attitude that the goal is to do wrong and not get caught. So what does all of this mean?

  • People do not get along, agree or like each other all of the time. Some people always dislike each other, and this is OK.
  • Even when you disagree with someone, dislike someone or are in conflict with someone, you should respect each other.
  • You can sometimes learn a great deal from people you disagree with.
  • When someone injures you physically, verbally or emotionally, we encourage you to tell them clearly and directly to stop. If they ignore you or you feel too threatened to do that, you should involve another community member who can help diffuse and resolve the conflict.
  • No one will be punished because they are involved in a conflict.

One of the most important parts of the conflict resolution process is giving all involved an opportunity to tell their side of the story. This includes trying to understand what caused the conflict and taking responsibility for your role in it. It may also involve apology and forgiveness, but only if sincere. Saying you are sorry is only helpful if you feel sorry, and forgiveness cannot be forced. Community members that repeatedly instigate conflict will be asked to speak to the whole community about whether they want to remain at school. Students who do not want to attend school should not.